Why Spain is one of the best countries in the world to travel to if you are LGBTQ+

Michael Rizzi

This article was created for The Travel Project by Michael Rizzi, a gay YouTuber and LGBT educator from Toronto, Canada

My name is Michael Rizzi, and I’m a gay vlogger from Toronto, Canada. I refer to myself as a “gay vlogger” and not just a ”vlogger” because my sexuality is more than just a label - at the core, it’s who I am as a person. It influences so many different parts of my life, including how I travel.

For over two weeks, my boyfriend, Christian, and I travelled the beautiful country of Spain, in collaboration with The Travel Project. We were sent there on a mission: to better understand why Spain is one of the best countries in the world to travel to if you’re LGBTQ+. What did I learn? Well, we’ll get into that. However, I will start off by saying that Spain is far more than delicious tapas & paella. Spain is everything you could ever want in a country…hungry yet?

The Mission

Why is telling this story so important to me? Because as LGBT+ people, we have to consider our sexuality or gender identity when traveling. It’s easy to forget this when you live in a country that provides love and support for your identity. As such, we need LGBT+ travellers to tell their story and inspire others in our community to travel without fear.

I want this blog post to be a resource for LGBT+ people to learn why Spain is a diverse, colourful, and accepting country.
Michaeal Rizzi and boyfriend Christian

Landing in Madrid was the most incredible culture shock I could have asked for.

But I want to preface this by saying that I’ve always wanted to visit Madrid. Described by so many as the “gay capital of Europe,” I’ve always been curious to see what all the fuss is about! Before leaving for our Spain adventure, I saw countless Instagram posts from World Pride Madrid – needless to say it kept my anticipation level at its peak!

Upon arriving at our hotel, Christian and I were ready to take on Spain – well, that is until the jet lag hit us moments later… SO, after a long-needed nap, we left our hotel, navigated the city’s seamless public transit system, and entered Madrid’s city centre.

What was the first thing we saw? A same-sex couple walking together and holding hands, effortlessly showing their affection for one another. Pedestrians around us didn’t seem to take notice in their affection, everyone just walked along with their business as usual. This wasn’t a unique experience, either!

We found that same-sex public displays of affection we’re completely normal. As such, it was the first lesson I learned from Spain: people are very relaxed about their day-to-day lives, and very little seems to bother them.

Famous for its iconic Catholic churches, can Barcelona really be a destination for LGBT+ travellers? Absolutely!

Prior to visiting Barcelona, I didn’t know too much about the city and its culture. However, I was familiar with the city’s historical relationship with Catholicism, with famous sites such as La Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell.

Can a city with such deep religious ties be a welcoming environment for the LGBT+ community? To answer that question, Christian and I decided to sit down with Juame Vidal of Visit Barcelona and Eloi Morte, the Director of Pride Barcelona. They took us to restaurant called FOZ, a local eatery in the heart of Barcelona’s gay district. While indulging in some delicious local cuisine, we learned that over 50,000 people marched in this year’s Pride Barcelona.

In addition, they told us that over 200,000 people participated in Pride Barcelona’s festivities. As such, Pride Barcelona is one of the largest Mediterranean Pride events.

I’ve definitely got Barcelona marked down as a city I need to re-visit…

However, the most interesting thing we learned about Pride Barcelona is that it attracts a large number of local LGBT+ people. Juame and Eloi emphasized that the LGBT+ community in Barcelona is very close, and the LGBT+ culture as a whole is a fundamental part of Barcelona’s appeal as a travel destination.

This brings me to the second lesson that I learned in Spain: Barcelona, while a cultural hub for Catholicism, is one of the greatest places in the world to be LGBT+.
Michael Rizzi in Barcelona

Now, I have to admit something…I had a few drinks in Granada.

By the time we had reached Granada, Christian and I were feeling very cultured! We had experienced the accepting city of Madrid, and learned about Barcelona’s diverse and colourful LGBT+ community. I think you know what happens next… it was time to visit a local gay bar!

Michael Rizzi in Granada

During our last night in Granada, our Contiki family decided to go out to a local bar together. We danced (and had a couple drinks) until around 2AM, when I decided that it was time to experience Spain’s LGBT+ nightlife. I told a few of my new Contiki friends of my plans, and they gladly came along with me. We headed towards Granada’s gay district – A.K.A. where all the city’s gay bars were located on Google Maps… and ended up in front of Pub La Sal.

The street outside of the bar was very quiet, with around 8-10 people hanging outside. We approached the bar’s door, and noticed a doorbell. After ringing the doorbell, a young guy opened the door, and the beautiful sounds of pop music flowed out onto the street. In contrast to the quiet streets of Granada, Pub La Sal was a bright and colourful bar, filled with local LGBT+ people.

Suddenly, 2AM became 3AM, which turned into 4AM even faster. Once the bar closed, we met a few locals who offered to take us to a disco club for yet more dancing.

This brings me to the third lesson of Spain: locals truly enjoy their nightlife, and will dance until the sun comes up.

My Contiki friends and I kindly declined, as six hours of nightlife was enough for us! That night, I experienced the incredible LGBT+ community of Granada; it’s a night that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Michael Rizzi on Contiki

We have to be a resource for LGBT+ tourists, in the same way that we want them to be resources for us when we travel.

I can honestly say that my 17-day Spanish Spree adventure was a once in a lifetime experience. Spain is probably one of the only countries that I can visit for over 2 weeks, and want to go back the moment I leave.

As a gay traveller, I learned that connecting with the local LGBT+ community is key. Whether you’re reading LGBT+ travel posts, or speaking to locals, connecting with the community is the best way to travel effectively and safely.

You’ll learn about the best bars and restaurants to visit, and find local gems that aren’t in any travel pack. In this same way, it’s so important that our community be a resource for LGBT+ travellers. Next time you see a tourist at your local gay bar, offer to show them around, or give them some recommendations! Treat them as you’d want to be treated when you travel abroad.

And as my final note, I want to say thank you to Contiki, for giving my boyfriend and I the trip of a lifetime. There’s nothing that will replace the experience we had.

Michael and Christian travelled on Contiki’s Spanish Spree as part of The Travel Project. If you are an aspiring writer, photographer or videographer and have a story about how travel has changed your life and helped you realise who you are as a person, we want to hear it. Head here to discover more.

To see more of Michael’s trip to Spain with The Travel Project, head to his channel here.

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  • Ronald Conception

    Absolutely lovely that Michael & Christian got to visit Spain, and wonderful to know that the LGBT+ community is thriving there. Now, I just need to find a hunky Spanish-speaking friend to travel there with me. 😉

    • Craig Dailey-Blackman

      You can go find your hunky Spanish man there 🙂 In the major cities English is spoken by most. We learned this during our four straight years of visiting Barcelona, Sitges and Bilboa. Amazing country and wonderful people. 🙂

  • Lukus

    This was a great post! Found it very interesting 🙂

  • Bob Groves

    Thanks for this, Michael. I’m a senior gay man but you filled my heart with joy, something the USA needs more of right now. A great blog.

  • Craig Dailey-Blackman

    My husband and I went to Barcelona for our honeymoon in 2014. We feel in love with the city. We have since returned each year in May or June. This last time was for 3 weeks. We absolutely enjoy our visits and have decided we will retire to Barcelona when the time comes. We have made a lot of friends and have our favorite local restaurants and hangouts that we visit each time and the staff remembers us. Can’t wait until we get to finally move and enjoy the wonderful city full time.